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2014-06-05

IG to investigate Texas VA facilities

Special to the Courier

Veterans Affairs Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin has confirmed that his office is investigating allegations of misconduct at three Central Texas VA facilities - the North Central Federal Clinic in San Antonio, the Austin Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic and Waco Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
In a letter to Congressman Lamar Smith and 23 members of the Texas delegation, the IG stated that his office is actively investigating allegations that employees manipulated medical records to conceal long wait times for veterans seeking care. The IG said that he expects the investigation to be completed by August and promised a full report to Congress at that time.
"I am pleased to hear that the Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General will investigate serious allegations of misconduct at three Texas VA facilities," Smith noted in response.
"Americans across the country are rightly outraged by reports that VA employees doctored medical records to conceal long wait times for sick veterans in need of care.
"President Obama recently echoed the concerns of millions of Americans regarding the serious allegations. But where was the President's outrage five years ago when his staff was initially told about the problems at the VA? In 2008, the President's transition team was warned about long wait times, scheduling problems and even concerns about denial of care to deserving veterans."
Smith continued, "We need more than outrage from the President. We need swift action to protect the health and well-being of our veterans. An independent investigation by the Inspector General is a first start. We must make sure that the IG investigators have all the tools and resources they need to get to the bottom of these troubling allegations."
According to Smith, anyone found to have violated the law should be prosecuted and anyone who engaged in misconduct should be fired. "Our nation's veterans dedicate their lives to protecting America and keeping us safe. We have a solemn duty to ensure that they receive the very best medical care our nation has to offer," he concluded.
Earlier this month, Smith sent a letter to Griffin calling for an immediate investigation into allegations of misconduct at three VA facilities in Texas. Twenty-three members of the Texas delegation joined Smith in sending the letter.
According to media reports, employees at the North Central Federal Clinic in San Antonio, the Austin Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic and Waco Veterans Affairs Medical Center were instructed by supervisors to ensure that wait times for veterans were as "close to zero days as possible."
An employee of Veterans Affairs who recently worked at all three clinics claims that staffers falsely logged patients' desired appointment dates to closely coincide with appointment openings. But in reality, veterans were left waiting for months.
In response to continued revelations about misconduct within the VA medical system - which may have contributed to deaths of veterans - Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned on May 30.
Veterans Affairs Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin has confirmed that his office is investigating allegations of misconduct at three Central Texas VA facilities - the North Central Federal Clinic in San Antonio, the Austin Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic and Waco Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
In a letter to Congressman Lamar Smith and 23 members of the Texas delegation, the IG stated that his office is actively investigating allegations that employees manipulated medical records to conceal long wait times for veterans seeking care. The IG said that he expects the investigation to be completed by August and promised a full report to Congress at that time.
"I am pleased to hear that the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General has confirmed they are investigating serious allegations of misconduct at three Texas VA facilities," Smith noted in response.
"Americans across the country are rightly outraged by reports that VA employees doctored medical records to conceal long wait times for sick veterans in need of care. President Obama recently echoed the concerns of millions of Americans regarding the serious allegations. But where was the President's outrage five years ago when his staff was initially told about the problems at the VA?"
In 2008, the Obama's transition team was warned about long wait times, scheduling problems and even concerns about denial of care to deserving veterans.
Smith continued, "We need more than outrage from the President. We need swift action to protect the health and well-being of our veterans. An independent investigation by the Inspector General is a first start. We must make sure that the IG investigators have all the tools and resources they need to get to the bottom of these troubling allegations."
According to Smith, those who are found to have violated the law must be prosecuted - and anyone who engaged in misconduct should be fired. "Our nation's veterans dedicate their lives to protecting America and keeping us safe. We have a solemn duty to ensure that they receive the very best medical care our nation has to offer."
"After weeks of muted reactions and tepid responses, I'm glad to see the President and Sec. Shinseki have heeded our calls for new leadership at the VA. As a decorated service member, Sec. Shinseki served his country well but his time at the VA has been marked by gross inefficiencies and mismanagement.
"President Obama must quickly nominate someone from outside the broken bureaucracy of the VA to implement immediate changes focused on providing our veterans with the care they deserve."